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Renovation of the Iconic Maghagha Post Office Breathes Life Into a Once-Dilapidated Structure

October 25, 2023

The redbrick, tumbledown post office on Al Gomhoriya Street in Maghagha, though humble and quaint, has stood for decades as an enduring symbol of the Upper Egyptian city’s identity. Despite its disheveled state, the building remains a vibrant hub for Maghaghans. Here, locals send and receive post, purchase stamps, and cash their pensions.

Located on the outskirts of Al Minya governorate, Maghagha has been one of Egypt’s most important agricultural centers since the time of the ancient Egyptians. The city has a rich cultural heritage with traditional customs, cuisine, and celebration, and its people are known for their warm hospitality.

The post office’s story is that of Maghagha itself, says Moaz Abouzaid, founder and lead designer of Verform, an Egyptian boutique design studio.

Maghagha post office before renovation. Photo credit: Verform.

With offices in Dubai, Istanbul, and Milan, Verform is on a mission to revitalize the past and integrate it into the present. Under Abouzaid’s leadership, the firm set out on a journey to renovate the historic Maghagha post office. The biggest challenge, however, was figuring out how to breathe life into the dilapidated structure without compromising its storied history.

From the verdant fields that surrounded Maghagha to the minute details of this age-old edifice, Abouzaid’s team found beauty in the most unlikely places. The goal was to include the spirit of Maghagha in all facets of the project, paying tribute to its history and customs.

“Observing the locals and their way of life in Maghagha provided great inspiration. Seeing how they interacted with their surroundings and how the architecture played a part in their daily lives sparked ideas for the project,” Abouzaid tells Egyptian Streets.

Mouaz Abouzaid with his team during the renovation of the Maghagha post office. Photo credit: Verform.

Abouzaid confirms that meticulous design decisions were discussed in depth to guarantee that the space would resonate with those who used it.

The restoration process involved thorough research and in-depth analysis of the original structure. Verform paid close attention to architectural details, materials, and historical significance, striking a delicate balance that managed to preserve the building’s authentic character while introducing contemporary elements to enhance functionality and appeal.

Maghagha post office before renovation. Photo credit: Verform.

“Our decision to work in Maghagha was deliberate, driven by our passion for working in rural areas. We believe that countryside locations often lack attention from architectural firms, and we saw an opportunity to bring radical change to a community that may have been overlooked. By investing our skills and efforts in Maghagha, we aim to enhance the lives of its residents and create a positive ripple effect that can extend to other rural areas,” he says.

Verform team renovating the Maghagha post office. Photo credit: Verform

The renovation effort highlighted the old building’s unique features, including the exposed red brick facade and ornamental details. The project also involved lower-height new buildings surrounding the old structure, with landscaping and comfortable seating areas, creating a panoramic view that symbolizes the old building embracing the new.

The renovated Maghagha post office. Photo credit: Verform.

The design focused on creating an open and inviting space for the community. This included maximizing counter space for efficient customer service and providing comfortable waiting areas.

The upper floors were designed for staff and feature ample workspaces, while the roof was transformed into a recreational area with seating and a designated praying corner, covered by a steel pergola with the logo motif.

To enhance the welcoming atmosphere, existing fences were removed to make the post office more accessible and visually appealing. Strategic landscaping with shrubs, flowers, and trees and seating areas for relaxation were added.

Designers introduced a glass link to connect the old and new structures, fostering a harmonious transition and preserving a sense of continuity. Additionally, a motif inspired by traditional mashrabiya was incorporated, serving security and aesthetic purposes.

“We focused on adapting the space to meet modern postal service requirements, integrating updated amenities and infrastructure with respect to the building’s original layout and spatial configuration. The refurbished Maghagha post office effortlessly caters to the needs of contemporary postal service, ensuring its continued functionality and relevance,” Abouzaid reveals.

The Maghagha post office project recently garnered recognition at the 6th Edition of the Baku International Architecture Award, coming in second in the Best Implemented Project in the Field of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction category.

The renovated Maghagha post office. Photo credit: Verform.

“Working in public buildings is one of our primary focuses. We specifically chose to focus on a post office because it aligns with our expertise and previous projects with Egypt Post. We understand the importance of post office services and recognize the potential to make
a significant impact on the community by improving the functionality and design of these spaces,” Abouzaid says.

The renovation is a collaborative effort of a team comprising architects, engineers, and specialists. Leading the project’s architecture, interior design, and landscaping were Abouzaid, the design principal and Ïounder of Verform, and Islam Al Mashtooly, the Ïounder and design director of Design & More International, a planning and architectural firm. Interior Designer Zaid Abouzaid and Albert Ïojas, a partner and technical director at Verform, offered invaluable assistance in the design and execution of the project.

The renovated Maghagha post office. Photo credit: Verform.

“I believe in the power of good design to positively impact individuals and communities. It is important to me that our work is not only aesthetically pleasing but also practical and sustainable. I strive to create spaces that enhance the lives of those who interact with them, regardless of their scale,” Abouzaid says.

The renovated Maghagha post office. Photo credit: Verform.

Verform is working with Egypt Post on the renovation of several other post offices around the country.In each of these projects, Abouzaid and his team will continue to tackle the same formidable challenge: preserving Egypt’s rich postal heritage while seamlessly integrating modern design elements–a not-so-easy feat to achieve but a testament to their commitment to better local communities through innovative design solutions.

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